Chapter 13: The Angel of Death
Chapter 13: The Angel of Death
Frank and Alex grabbed a cab and raced to the Institute. He had no idea how much time he had. As far as he knew, they were watching his every move. Could they intervene?
Making small talk out of nerves, Alex asked “Were you close with your sister?”
Frank calmed and smiled lightly, perhaps out of distraction and part out of memory. “We were, when we were younger. I made out with half her girlfriends in High School. But she’s all grown up, married with kids. They are teenagers themselves now…” He was ashamed that he had not so much as called her in a year. How he had kept thinking to himself, ’Six more months to retirement, then I will spoil them rotten… I will teach them to fish. I will …’ Now: what can he do? What should he do? Will she appear to her own children from the grave?
As they piled out of the cab, Collins spotted Victor and was talking at full clip, “They are gaining new powers, broader range. Alex picked visits as far away as Boston. They fear you. What you know and what you can do. We have to act now.”
Just then, they all three noticed a tall man, walking with intent towards them. Frank looked hard, while backing away, pulling Dr. Fenster by the lapel.
Alex had been leaning against the cab, reading his monitor. He looked up from the screen at the man. He dropped his monitor, pulled his gun and fired three rounds into him. Only Dr. Fenster was surprised to see the man simply increase his pace.
The tall man’s features were not clear, like a composite drawing of a real person. Collins could not match it to any in the portfolio. Collins pushed Alex and Dr. Fenster behind him and towards the Institute. He yelled at them both “Go! run! Shut off the power!” while unloading another round straight in the man’s chest. “Give Alex your passkey! Alex, go find the circuit breakers.” They half fell through the revolving door, pulled each other up, and ambled on.
At the edge of his vision, the building façade shimmered and Frank recognized Randall’s visage coming to focus.
The tall man was weakened and bloody, but stumbled forward, grabbing Frank by the shoulders and pulled him to the ground, spitting blood into his face, while he spoke in a calm tone, “I’ve met your sister, Susan. She is safe.”
Collins eyes flashed with recognition and fear. His head flushed with heat; he could hear his blood pounding in his head. He screamed at him, “Safe? She’s in a tank! What did you do?”
“She’s in here. New girl, very lonely.” What Frank would do to wipe that smile off his face.
“What have you done to her?”
“You misunderstand. The newbies, they haven’t learned how to interact. But once they connect, they call out to others.”
Collins stared at the plastic face, trying to read intent in the man’s eyes, but it was futile. He knows what the call girls saw: it was creepy. More than a mannequin, but not all there. He was conversational, casual, about it, “Have you ever been in a chat room? The newbies want to understand what their new existence will be like, what are the rules, talk about their lives, love ones, regrets.”
“Get to the point, you fucking ghoul!”
“I’m only stating the obvious: she is now one of us.”
Collins pistol-whipped the man’s head to the ground. Randall dove on him. Frank saw two iridescent forms merge and distort. He pulled himself free, checked his gun, and ran in after Alex and Victor.
Once in the foyer, Frank sprinted up the stairs to the Mezzanine, meeting the slower, frail Dr. Fenster had only managed half a flight. He grabbed him by the arm, pulling him up the steps. Three blisters formed out of the floor in the foyer. They expanded and rose as evolved into human forms. Frank shot one, but it only seemed to stunt its growth. Collins looked down over the rail one more time, trying to get a second shot. Then, he noticed: one form was Randall, and he was tackling one of the others. He did not have time to process, but he guessed some kind of civil war was going on in the Bridge. They pressed on.
“Susan! … Suzy!” Frank yelled to the room.
As they unlocked the door to the meat locker, the lights went out, but the bus and the monitors were still running. Dr. Fenster dropped to his hands and knees, letting out a cry of pain due to his old knees. Arched in pain, like a cat stretching, he crawled over and pulled back a desk, exposing a service panel. He popped the panel open and started throwing switches. Some other lab components fell dark.
By then, the tall man had reappeared in the doorway, wielding a metal coat rack. He swung it like a golf club into Dr. Fenster’s belly. The hook drove in deep, like gigging a fish. Dr. Fenster held the pole with both hands, a look of betrayal as he recognized his face… one of his first phase 3 patients… “David?” he pleaded. David… Somebody… the loss of blood and pain distracted him. The man turned and headed toward Collins.
Frank had made it across the room to the Phase 3 clusters. “Susan! I won’t fail you! I won’t fail the kids! I love you!” He toppled one stack of cylinders. On landing, some chambers had broken open, with cerebrospinal fluid spilling onto the floors. The tall man melted in place, and the coat rack bounced on the ground with a clanging noise.
Alex stumbled in, with two plastic forms in chase. One of the forms was already melting into the floor. The other did not have complete facial features, a swirl of Chrome and flesh tone. Somewhere along the way, Alex had lost his arm at the elbow. He joked, “the fuckers took my arm. Is this lost and found?”
Victor chuckled at that, smiled in a quiet resignation and closed his eyes, one last time.
Randall entered the room, his face serene now. He looked at Victor, then Alex, then Collins apologetically. He nodded his head goodbye and melted into the floor, one last time.
Across town, Maria held Howard tight, one last time.
And Frank Collins, sprawled on the floor, dripping with clear fluids, pried open another cylinder, carefully cradled out a brain and cried as he held his sister, one last time.
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